For Better or for Worse: The Power of a Spouse

Spouse marriage better or worse

My friend Lydia was helping her 6-year-old daughter out of her Sunday clothes.

“Honey,” she said, “Did anyone tell you how pretty you look in your new dress?”

Little Holly said, “No. They thought it. They just forgot to tell me.”

I love the self-esteem that answer reveals. Such parents—Terry and Lydia Martin of Columbus, Mississippi, my friends for over 40 years—surely did something right with this child.

Our task is to convey a healthy esteem not only to our children but to our spouses, our husband, our wife.

No one else can touch my spouse the way I can. Presumably, she knows me better than anyone on earth (certainly in ways no one else does), and I know her the same way. (I speak theoretically in my case.)

The other night I caught a re-run of the well-loved sitcom Newhart in which Bob Newhart and Mary Frann play Dick and Joanna, operators of the Stratford Inn B&B in Vermont. What surprised me about this particular episode was that Joanna was putting him down with her barbed comments. “I could have married someone better.” “With all your glaring weaknesses.” And several more.

As I listened, I thought, “And we loved this show?” It was so totally out of character for the rest of the series. I have no idea what was going on, but watching it was painful.

While drawing an elderly couple at some church, I noticed the wife had the prettiest eyes. I said, “Does he tell you what beautiful eyes you have?” She said, “Every day.” I said, “How long have you been married?” She said, “Sixty-five years.” I said, “Sir, you are really doing something right.”

I went home and told my wife what beautiful eyes she had.

At Margaret’s funeral on February 2 of this year, we ran one of those continuous videos displaying photos of her through the years. Later, longtime friend Jim Graham said, “Joe, I don’t think Margaret ever knew how beautiful she was.”

I fear he is right, and thus it was a failing of mine.

Telling her was my job. Building up my wife’s self-esteem was my responsibility.

Owen Cooper, industrialist from Yazoo City, Mississippi, was the last layman to serve as president of the Southern Baptist Convention and a great force for missions. After his death, William Carey University dedicated the Owen and Elizabeth Cooper School of Missions. The wonderful Elizabeth Cooper herself was one of the speakers. I’ll never forget one thing she said.

“As great a man as Owen was in the world, he was a far better man within the four walls of our home.”

That may be the finest accolade I’ve ever heard a wife give to her husband.

I came home and told Margaret, “I want you to be able to say that about me.” She said, “You might want to get started.”

They asked Dwight L. Moody if a certain man was a Christian. “I don’t know,” he said. “I haven’t talked to his wife.”

No one knows a woman better than her husband. No one knows a man better than his wife. They have incredible powers to bless and encourage each other. They have an almost superhuman ability to destroy the other, due to their intimate knowledge and long history.

Husbands and wives, let us build up one another, and encourage each other. Let us pray for each other and nurture the godly traits that may be dormant in some.

A woman admitted, “I used to pray, ‘Lord, you love him and I’ll change him.’ But nothing happened until I began to pray, ‘Lord, I’ll love him and you change him.’”

“Husbands, love your wives” (Ephesians 5:25).

“Let the wife see that she reverence her husband” (Ephesians 5:33).  

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Joe McKeever
Joe McKeever has been a believer over 60 years, has been preaching the Gospel over 50 years, and has been writing and cartooning for Christian Publications over 40 years. He lives in New Orleans.